Sea lion population boom at San Francisco Pier 39, highest numbers seen in 15 years, officials say

The sea lion count at San Francisco's Pier 39 has been the highest in seven years, with more than 820 sea lions and counting, officials said on Monday, April 29, 2024. (PIER 39)

There's a sea lion population boom underway at San Francisco's Pier 39, and folks were being invited to check it out.

Pier 39 officials said the count has reached 900 to 1,000 as of Tuesday, the highest numbers seen in 15 years.  

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Officials credited the increase in the pinnipeds to an abundant food supply of anchovy that was coming from the Farallon Islands west of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

"With a steady food supply and happy bellies, you won't want to miss the sea lions be extra active and playful!" Pier 39 wrote on social media on Monday as they shared a photo of the lounging animals at the pier marina. 

A view of the pier’s live sea lion webcam on Tuesday showed a very large herd of the animals, piled on floating docks, many lying about and soaking in the sun, while others engaged in spirited play or slid into the water to cool off.    

"California sea lions are known for their intelligence, playfulness and noisy barking," according to facts shared by Pier 39, which also noted that typically, a majority of the animals found at its site are male.

This time of year is considered peak sea lion viewing season at Pier 39. "It's a remarkable scene," said Pier 39 spokesperson Sue Muzzin.

She also warned people should be prepared to be met with a potentially pungent odor. "There's a lot of them, and so sometimes it smells a little bit funky," Muzzin noted, though she added that the stink was worth the incredible sight.  

Officials invited the public to take advantage of the scene and watch the show the sea lions were putting on, while enjoying all the offerings of the area. 

"The weather is beautiful," Muzzin said, "This is the perfect time to come!"